Monday, November 06, 2006

Digging Beneath the Surface

When I agreed to my book deal in March, the first thing I wanted to do (other than laminate a printout of the Publishers Markeplace listing) was to penetrate the secret world of the Crime Writer. Meet other authors. Meet independant booksellers. Observe the Crime Writer in her or her natural habitat, which, I soon learned, always contained a well-stocked liquor cabinet.

My first experience in this new world came back in April at the pre-party for the Edgar Awards held at the Black Orchid bookstore. I went, despite never having met a single person there in, well, person, but figured there had to be a first time.

So I went. Spent the majority of my time looking like a lost kid at the mall, hoping someone might come up and say, "Hey little boy, what are you doing in this big place all by yourself?"

I drank a few glasses of wine, ate some cheese, got into a few good conversations, and left with the surprising revelation that all these people knew each other. Every now and then an author would be whisked away to sign stock, a la the plastic aliens in "Toy Story" being snatched away by The Claw.

It was like I'd rolled over a log and discovered a hidden world that lay beneath. (insert your own joke about crime writers living under logs)

Pretty soon I was googling the authors I met, reading their websites and blogs, buying their books, and finding out more about the crime genre than I had in my entire tenure as an editor.
I spent ten minutes having what I assumed was an innocuous chat with CrimeSpree's Jen Jordan about my dual roles as editor and author, until Sarah Weinman had to tap me on the shoulder and say, "You realize you're being soliciated to write an article."

All I could manage was an ignorant, "Duurr..."
(the article, of course, should run in next month's CrimeSpree)

This experience was an eye-opener for me, not just as an author, but as an editor. Who knew this gigantic subculture existed just under the surface? A nomadic tribe of authors moving from conference to conference, from understaffed bar to understaffed bar?

As an editor who works with publicists and marketers to figure out the best ways to publish and promote books, I wondered how many people in the industry were as clueless as I was. I mean, how could you possibly hope to promote a crime novel if you had no concept of the crime fiction infrastructure?

As the months passed, I slowly tried to dip myself into the crime fiction bloodstream. I started a blog and shamelessly commented on others. I went to conferences and book signings. I met as many people as I could think of, all of whom for the most part were happy to see another writer enter the fray. Not to mention someone who could give insight into the Mind of the Editor (sample insight: "Did I remember to submit my expense report last week?")

With several authors on my list who write variations of crime fiction, these lessons were invaluable and will help my company do its authors proud. As an author, I learned just how little I knew (and wondered if others didn't need to learn more as well).

The bottom line is that you can say you're a certian kind of creature, walk like the creature, talk like the creature, believe you are the creature, but until you walk amongst other creatures you've only seen the top side of the log.

And trust me, the bottom part is much more interesting.

(Remember to insert your own joke about crime authors living under logs. Specifically Dave White)


Blogger Jim Winter said...

Paul Bunyan and Babe were walking out in the woods one time when they thought they heard Pig Vomit from HOWARD STERN'S PRIVATE PARTS. Bunyan turned to Babe and said, "Hey, that sounds just like Paul Giamatti."

Babe, being an ox, just said, "Moo."

Bunyan noticed the sound was coming from under a log. He hoisted the log and saw...

"Oh. It's just Dave White."

And Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox went off to have buttered scones for tea.

3:24 PM  
Blogger JT Ellison said...

Wart on a frog on a knot on a log in a hole in the bottom of the sea. I assume Dave White knows the drinking game.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Oh, I hear you. I learn something new about the publishing industry EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I'm supposed to be some kind of expert at it now (ha.) The more you know, the more you realize how little you know.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Dave White said...

Um... under a log or not... Dave White rules.

5:25 PM  

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